Interior Department packs wildlife advisory panel with trophy hunters, firearms lobbyists

By on March 16, 2018 with 12 Comments

Had the Department of the Interior appointed Ted Nugent and Phil and Si from Duck Dynasty to its International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), we might at least have been able to laugh a little. As things stand, however, it’s a crying shame. Formed in November 2017, the council is little more than a trophy hunting trade association masquerading as a public panel.

The IWCC is loaded with officials from Safari Club International, the firearms and ammunition lobby, and professional and celebrity hunters who are bad news for wildlife wherever they go. These council members have one thing on their minds when it comes to threatened animals, and it’s not conservation. It’s killing, and they seek to use the Department of the Interior to destroy any and all barriers to international trophy hunting and the import of trophy heads and parts by U.S. citizens.

By its own admission, the Department of the Interior formed the council to educate the public about the benefits of global trophy hunting; to promote resumption in the legal trade and import of trophy hunted animals; to recommend actions to expedite the processing of import permits for trophy heads and parts; and to advise the agency on the inclusion of foreign listed species under the Endangered Species Act. None of this is needed by our government and there is not one of these people — not one — who deserves a role in guiding the Interior Department’s global wildlife policy. They are for the most part direct beneficiaries of trophy hunting as an industry, with a commercial interest in loosening restrictions on hunting wildlife in Africa and elsewhere. They have personal, financial, or other vested interests, which render them unfit for service.

The IWCC held its first meeting today, several weeks after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of the Interior, lifted existing bans on the import of elephant and lion trophies from certain African countries. Given President Trump’s November tweet expressing his distaste for trophy hunting (he called it “a horror show”) and his public remarks doubting the conservation value of trophy hunting, some journalists now worry that he has turned a blind eye. We hope that they’re wrong.

Still others have been giving voice to the trophy hunters’ claim that trophy hunting has conservation and economic value in the nations where it occurs. We know that they are wrong. This is an old argument once again gaining currency in some quarters, but it is a counterfeit one.

In fact, trophy hunting is poorly regulated, fueled by corruption, and biologically unsustainable. It’s also a major factor in driving species to extinction. In Zimbabwe, the country from which most elephant trophies imported to the United States originate, wildlife management is so poor that the country has lost six percent of its elephants since 2001. Scientific studies have demonstrated that elephant hunting is unsustainable, as documented by the decreasing size of tusks on hunted elephants.

Sadly, too, corrupt government officials in Zimbabwe have long been lining their pockets with money generated by trophy hunting. Last month, the entire board of Zimbabwe’s national wildlife authority was fired by the minister of the environment due to corruption. Last year, the director of the wildlife agency was fired for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of rhino horns worth $3 million from a government facility.

Compared to wildlife-related tourism, trophy hunting has low economic value for the nations where it occurs. A 2017 study by Economists at Large found that tourism is worth between 2.8 percent and 5.1 percent of GDP in the eight countries assessed, while the total economic contribution of trophy hunting is at most about 0.03 percent of GDP. Foreign trophy hunters make up less than 0.1 percent of tourists on average and they contribute 0.78 percent or less of the $17 billion in overall tourism spending in the studied countries. Trophy hunting tourism employment is only 0.76 percent or less of average direct tourism employment in study countries.

For these and other reasons, African nations would be wise to focus on wildlife-based tourism rather than trophy hunting, which fails to offer long-term and sustainable income for communities. In an era of dire threat to the world’s wildlife, the Department of the Interior should strengthen its vigilance against wildlife trafficking, poaching, habitat destruction, unsustainable and illegal trophy hunting, and related conservation crimes. Instead, it’s sponsoring a caucus for trophy hunters.

Humane Society International, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Jen says:

    This is an abomination !

    The Department of Interior and all these hunting groups are flat out wrong !!
    These are horrible, cruel people who are trying to manipulate others into thinking it’s okay to kill beautiful, wild animals just for fun, or worse, for conservation ??? It’s Not okay!

    Please shut them down!

  2. Deedee D. says:

    What can we do? My answer is to VOTE OUT the many animal-hating legislators. I hope more of the public realize there is a big war on wildlife in this current regime, and we CAN do something about it starting in the Nov. mid-terms.

    What gets me is that people who call themselves advocates — even those who rescue and/or rehabilitate — voted AGAINST the animals and CONTINUE to support this deadly Administration. It is very sad, disturbing, hypocritical, and horrifying.

  3. John Bachman says:

    I assume that the same rational is used in helping the child hunger problem by bombing and killing children or giving weapons to countries so they can kill them.

  4. Deedee D. says:

    Just on BBC News:
    “Botswana’s Ian Khama: Trump encouraging elephant poaching”

  5. Mary says:

    Makes my blood boil when unread helps the wildlife to survive . We all know this is not the truth . Do we have to wait till all our wonderful wild life has gone

  6. Mary says:

    Time to act to put a stop to this act

  7. George Nagle says:

    Hi Kitty, this was an excellent essay exposing the corruption and conflicts of interests of the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), and what the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is supposed to be – wildlife protection and true conservation. Actually, I’m surprised they didn’t include Ted Nugent and Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) as members of this council, i.e. they’ve included every other Safari Club International (SCI) and NRA serial animal killer as a member.

    I was going to recommend that you submit your essay as an Op-ed to either the NY Times or Washington Post, but I noticed that your essay was already re-published by the Wisconsin Gazette and Alternet, and the NYT and WP typically want exclusive rights over an Op-ed submittal. So I think the best strategy would be to submit your essay to the Huffington Post as an Op-ed. I don’t think they are as restrictive as the NYT or WP, and I believe that the Huffington Post gets as much traffic as the NYTimes.

    The American and international public, and corporations, have demonstrated their outrage to trophy hunting of majestic and endangered animals by wealthy Americans (Cecil the lion). I think that Ellen Degeneres’ recent public stand against the resumption of elephant trophy hunting on her TV show was what caused Trump to back down and oppose it. So informing the public and getting high profile celebrities involved can have a major impact in putting pressure on Trump to stop Ryan Zinke (Secretary of the Interior) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from overturning the ban of importing lion and elephant trophies from Africa.
    In addition, filing another lawsuit, like the grizzly lawsuit, might be appropriate if you think you can build a strong case to stop this trophy hunting of endangered species and importing trophies back into the U.S.

    Unfortunately, we are getting our rear-ends kicked and losing this war on wildlife, because we don’t have the political power and influence that the NRA and hunting lobbies do. The only way that HSUS can re-engage in this fight and win is to make a major commitment to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) in resources and talent to build a political voting bloc (PAC) that can strike fear into politicians and take on the NRA. The NRA only has 4-5 million members compared to the HSUS’ 12 million members and 315 million Americans that don’t hunt. I have no doubt that with commitment and determination HSUS can build a powerful PAC that can take on and surpass the power of the NRA, and there’s no better time to get started as right now. There’s an entire new generation ready to sign up and take on the NRA and cruelty to animals.

  8. DIANE OKTAY says:

    I am against Trophy Hunting. Countries like Africa should encourage Wildlife Conservation efforts and encourage Tourism vacation packages. I am promoting Conservation efforts on my Twitter page. The Price is Right game show has vacation packages as a prize for winning contestants.

  9. Anne Barton says:

    One of the many things HSUS does for us is to alert us to the background and activities of people who hold important government positions on animal issues. This is a prime example and I am grateful to you for alerting the public to this corrupt panel.
    Another way HSUS has helped alert us about the animal welfare record of officials is the humane score about members of congress. This is a crucial kind of information for those of us who want to see legislation that promotes animal welfare. I only wish it could be expanded. It is very difficult to find this information for those who are not already in the US Congress. I look for it not only when voting but also when supporting candidates financially or with recommendations to my friends. I hope HSUS will expand this service to help its members use their votes to help animals.

  10. Robin Cornell says:

    I was not aware that promoting trophy hunting by rich people was a function of our government. This shows how corrupt and morally bankrupt the Trump administration is. Some members of this board have personal and business ties to Trump’s trophy-hunting sons.

  11. Linda Leas says:

    This type of news needs to be on televised general news (ABC,NBC,CBS). Does it even get covered on cable? The news is mostly politics and human foibles. Wildlife issues need more coverage; how can we accomplish this??

  12. Suzy S. says:

    Torturing and slaughtering other sentient creatures for ‘fun’ is sadistic. While I’m truly sorry for whatever happened to the people that enjoy it to make them the way they are, their sickness must be stopped.

    Thank you for keeping us informed – please let us know how what else we can do to fight it. Please include more links for us to write to government officials as well as individuals if possible/appropriate, publish locations where sessions on these types of issues are being held so members of the public can attend/picket, etc.

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